I’m feeling more and more comfortable doing 2-hour portraits in oil on paper. And I’ve added a few new things to my ever-growing list of dos and don’ts.
DO take the time to make sure your original light sketch is accurate: proportions are correct, angles of elements right, composition pleasing, etc. When you have a very limited time frame to actually paint the portrait, there just isn’t enough time to correct all of the little things that you should have gotten right at the beginning.
DO forget about the background when doing a quick study. It’s just too difficult to do a good job on it AND get a good likeness of your model.
DON’T get paint on your little finger and then use it to steady the rest of your hand while you are painting details on the face. (Notice all of those little dots on the right side of her hair? Duh.) Instead use a mahl stick to support your arm. You can buy one but I just use a 24-inch piece of wood dowel. It makes a world of difference.
After a long, snowy, horrendous winter, it is finally possible to go outside again in Michigan. I have been so excited to get out and try a plein air painting in oil, and I was finally able to do it last weekend. (Of course within a couple of days we had another 4 inches of fresh snow again. Oy.) I drove just a half a mile away from my house, settling on a beautiful view of a flooded wetlands area.
I have been researching paint surfaces and found that quite a few respected plein air artists work on Centurion Deluxe Oil Primed Linen Panels. They are easy to transport into the field, well-made and have a nice surface. You can also find them online (sometime in 6-packs) at very reasonable prices. I figured if they were good enough for accomplished oil painters, they would certainly be fine for me. I had pre-toned the surface with a wash of burnt sienna to kill the white of the board. I found that in oil, as well as pastel, I prefer to work on a colored ground. I put in my darkest areas first, and then find it easier to add midtones and highlights. When I tried working on a white surface, it was difficult for me to get my values correct. The bright white was always glaring at me and I couldn’t approximate the right tones on the first go around. It made for a lot of redoing….and of course, overworking.
As you know, I am new to this intoxicating and frustrating medium. Every piece I do teaches me something. Usually it’s something I SHOULDN’T do rather than something I SHOULD. However, over time, I am hoping these lessons will leave me with some tried and true techniques that will improve my work. Previous to this piece, I learned that I shouldn’t use much medium at all, and if I do use it, save it til the finishing touches. I have a couple of paintings from a few weeks ago that are still OOZING shiny oil from the excess medium I mixed with all my oil paints. Ugh. Won’t do THAT again.
Marge was our model last week. I’ve captured her many times in pastel, but this is my first attempt at an oil portrait of her. She has such a wise interesting face and personality. Its always a challenge to somehow imbue the physical painting with a bit of the model’s spiritual essence. Although I strive to capture a likeness, I also want to catch that internal spark as well.
Below are some of the pastel portraits of Marge from 2 and 3 years ago…
I’m proud to announce that I am now being represented by Synchronicity Gallery in Glen Arbor, Michigan. This fine art gallery in northern Michigan (near the Sleeping Bear Dunes) offers a large selection of work by accomplished Michigan artists. They will be handling some of my pastel paintings during the “Up North” season. If you have the chance, please drop by at:
I am also honored to be represented in Michigan by:
I tend to think of Florida as a tropical place filled with crazy color and huge palm trees. But that’s really the tourist view of the state. Off the coasts there are deeply wooded swamps and wetlands that have a completely different feel. I often seek those out-of-the-way places when we travel.
This pastel waterscape painting was created on site at the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve in Southern Florida. There are miles of planked walkways that wander through the jungle-like wetlands. Its usually not too crowded so I just set up my easel at one of the viewing stations and paint away. People are always interested and stop to chat.
I used a warm gray sanded paper for this piece, because I wanted to leave some of it showing thru the painting. The grey unified all of the other colors and helped give a subdued effect to the piece.
This artwork was created with: